There comes a time in any training program when you go off the wagon. There are days when you just can’t seem to make it into the gym. There are days when you can’t get your meal planning together and you end up at In ‘N Out. Suck days happen and they happen to us all. But what separates people who meet their goals and people who don’t meet their goals is whether those suck days become suck weeks, suck months, or even years lost to not training and eating like crap. But if you know suck days are going to happen, and give yourself some slack, you can plan ahead to prevent them from getting out of control.
It’s Your Fault
Other than “they happen to everyone,” the thing you need to know about suck days are that they are your fault. It wasn’t that you “ran out of time.” Only you know yourself and only you are in complete control of your day. You knew it was gonna be a tight day; you could have easily woken up a little earlier or done something ahead of time. But you didn’t. And now it’s midnight and the only clothes you’re changing into are PJs. It’s your fault you f-ed up, but there’s no sense in beating yourself up when there’s an opportunity to learn from it.
- What are the days that are tightest to schedule? Write shorter programs on those days and wake up 20 minutes early. Hit the five movements, get your heart rate up, and get on with your busy day.
- Doesn’t look like you’ll make it anywhere near the gym? Grab a kettlebell and put it in your trunk. Or find a pull up bar in a nearby park and bang out a bodyweight-only set of exercises.
- What is your priority? You know you feel better, get more done, and are more pleasant to everyone in your life when you are on the wagon. So make training an appropriate priority and don’t be afraid to sacrifice a little to get it done.
Other than travel, boredom is the leading cause of suck days. When you start a new training program, there isn’t much that can get in the way of a good lift or run. But as the novelty wears off, it’s easy for training to start dropping down your list of priorities. And once training is lower on that list than reruns of “How I Met Your Mother,” you have little hope of meeting your goals. But it’s ok. You can either beat yourself up for not being more disciplined or admit that you need to mix it up and plan accordingly.
- Bored of that super awesome program you started a week ago and starting to skip things? No program is so great that it can make you stronger while you aren't doing it. And training, any training, is better than not training at all. So don’t be afraid to mix it up. Programing is not dogma. You can change whatever you want if it means you keep training. But before you go scrapping everything, ask yourself this question from Pavel, “What do you want out of your strength program? Strength or entertainment?”
- Only really like doing cardio or bicep curls? Do them! Do a session that is just the things you love or just do them first thing. It will jumpstart your desire to train, and once you’ve cooked yourself on the pec machine, maybe you’ll feel like throwing in a deadlift or a mobility drill. You know, since you’re there.
Out of the Habit
Sometimes, usually as the result of travel or boredom, you get out of the habit of training. It doesn’t take much time. A week off might be all you need to get derailed, especially when motivation was low going into the missed sessions. And once things in your life gets crazy again, it can be hard to justify that hour for your body. Here's what you can do to get off the couch and back on track.
- Seems impossible to dedicate a whole hour to training? Then don’t! Grab a kettlebell and do 100 swings. Do as many push ups as you can in 5 minutes. Run up the stairs in your house. Anything that gets your heart rate going and your blood pumping, even if it’s only for 1/10 of your normal training time, will remind you how awesome it feels to use your body as a tool again. Do a little more the next day and you’ll be back on track inside a week.
- Can’t imagine yourself getting into your workout clothes when you feel that bloated and fat? Do a fast day. Stop eating after dinner and don’t eat again until dinner the next day. Drink plenty of fluids and take the time you’d normally spend working out to go grocery shopping for healthy food. Keeping busy will make you less aware of being hungry and if you shop hungry you’ll be more likely to buy lots of healthy food for the week. There’s no better jumpstart than a fridge full of healthy food that can go bad if you order takeout instead of eating it.
- Don’t feel any pressure to train? Tell everyone you know you’re going to the gym today. Put it as your Facebook status. Tweet it. Call your Mom and tell her that you are going back to the gym today come hell or high-water and you’ll get the motivation you need to hit it hard. Mostly because you’ll hear lots of positive encouragement from people, but also because if you don’t everyone will laugh at you.